Buying Your Own Car for the First Time after Divorce

Your divorce is over. You’ve divided your assets and untangled your finances. Now, it’s time for the practicalities of living your post-divorce life. 

If you and your spouse shared a vehicle when you were married, one of you is now facing the daunting task of buying a car. Your car-buying experience could take many forms. At some dealerships, a salesperson runs back and forth between their manager and you to get you a “better deal.” In other situations, buying a new car can be as easy as scrolling through your options and filling out an online application. 

But first, you’ll want to know what you’re looking for and what you can afford. 

Things to do before you buy a car

Today, there are so many car-buying options, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

Before you even step onto a dealership’s lot, decide what kind of vehicle you’ll need, what your budget is, and what your insurance and financing options are.

Check that your driver’s license is up to date. You may have changed your name or address during your divorce. Make sure your license reflects these changes.

Applying for an auto loan 

If you need an auto loan, you’ll want to answer some important questions about your finances before you fill out the application:

  • How much of a down payment can you offer? 
  • How much can you afford in monthly payments?
  • What does your credit score look like? 

All these factors will impact what kind of car you can get and the financing you’ll be offered.

Before you drive a car off the lot, you must show the dealer proof of insurance. Make sure you have the appropriate coverage in place before you go shopping. 

Other important questions to answer

What will you use your car for?

Do you have a significant commute to work and need to consider mileage? Will you be shuffling kids and their friends to soccer and dance and want size and safety? Would you be happy with anything that runs and has four wheels? Would you be interested in an electric vehicle or hybrid?

Your needs and finances will inform the type of car you might consider.

How many seats do you need?

While you might be tempted by the cute little sports car, reality says that the kids and their friends get priority. Not many cute little sports cars have the third-row option you’d need for hauling your kids and their friends to pizza after soccer practice. 

How much trunk space or other storage space do you need?

No matter how simple your lifestyle is, there may be times you need to move something large. Think about the last time you tried to fit that TV in your hatchback. Do you need to haul a trailer periodically? Consider your uses, and build your vehicle purchase around that. 

What is your budget?

The price of cars is a lot higher than it used to be. Don’t get caught in the dealership smoke and mirrors game that gets you into a car you simply can’t afford. Prepare yourself by checking out sites like Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds to get an idea of what your chosen car should be selling for and what your trade-in is worth.

Who can you call if you have car problems?

If you own a car, you’ll eventually need someone to service it. Finding a good car mechanic is an age-old dilemma, and personal recommendations are often the best resource. 

If you’ve located an honest dealership you like, they may be a good repair resource. However, they will not necessarily be the cheapest option. Before your car needs any major repairs, try some local shops for more minor needs, such as oil changes, to get a feel for their business. 

Roadside assistance coverage is invaluable in the event you have a breakdown while driving. Some car manufacturers offer roadside assistance as part of your purchase. You can also look at your state American Automobile Association, which offers roadside service and many other automobile-associated services. 

Tips for negotiating a good deal on a car

Knowledge is your best friend when car shopping. Know how much the car you want is worth. Know your trade-in value. Know what dealer fees you can refuse or negotiate. Be prepared to walk out the door if the dealer pushes fees you’re not willing to pay or offers less than your trade-in is worth. 

Research dealerships carefully. Read online reviews of dealerships before you visit them. While some businesses focus on the allure of a low monthly payment, don’t lose sight of the bottom line: your purchase price.

No-haggle pricing still has a cost. Uncomfortable haggling has prompted some dealerships to offer no-haggle pricing. Now, how do they make their money? Your trade-in value … and all the incidental “fees” needed to get the car out the door. Keep this in mind as you shop.

Divorce is not just a legal matter. Your life has changed in myriad ways. At Hello Divorce, we don’t just offer online divorce options; we also provide resources and access to experts who can help support you each step of the way, before, during, and after divorce. 

Have questions? We have answers. Schedule a free 15-minute phone call to see how we can help. 


Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.